About Aunty Alice Nāmakelua

Aunty Alice was my special mentor for the Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar. She taught me a great deal about how to play the instrument and perhaps more importantly, the philosophy hidden beneath the surface of the music. At one point, she was the love of my life, but since she was 80 something years old at the time and I was 15 – it was not meant to be!

I fondly remember Aunty Alice as a gracious and loving instructor, kind, patient and full of aloha. She is now considered to be the “First Lady” of the Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar who learned to play from her brother, one of the early players of Kī Hōʻalu back in the 1900’s. Her brother was a “Paniolo” or Hawaiian Cowboy, who lived on the Island of Hawaiʻi in the misty uplands of Waimea. This is where I was raised – where the Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar was born and where I was lucky enough to have spent my childhood.

P.S. Once after my lesson with Aunty Alice, I went home to my 15 year old girlfriend who cracked her gum in my face and wanted to borrow $5.00. This was also not meant to be!

Lesson Materials

  1. Here is my tablature for ‘Aunty Alice Slack Key’. Take a moment to print this Tab from your printer, then compare the Tab to my recording.
  2. Check your tuning by listening to the C Wahine Tuning audio file below and comparing it to your guitar.
  3. Shown below is my example playing of this piece. Close your eyes and listen carefully to my recording of ‘Aunty Alice Slack Key.’

Example and audio is for members only. Join now!


“Aunty Alice Slack Key” is a wonderful piece and lots of fun to play. In the Tab you will see a few hammers (or ascending slurs as the classical players like to call them) they are indicated by the letter “H”. A brief explanation of this technique is included in the explanation of the Tablature system that you have already studied. (Ascending and Descending slurs are techniques that we will approach in more detail in later lessons.)
You’ll notice from the audio file that I crescendo (build gently in volume) in Bar 3 to the end of the scale passage. Try playing rest-stroke at the top of the scale, to accent this crescendo.
When you listened to my recording, did you also notice a change of tone during Bar 5 & 6? Pretty cool huh? Try it yourself, by moving your right hand towards the bridge during these measures. With your hand closer to the bridge, you will coax a brighter tone from your instrument.
Don’t play too fast – just get it going smoothly and try to connect the sound of the notes. After you have successfully tried this sweet tune out on your wife/husband/girlfriend or significant other, they will follow you around like puppies. This is why many of us make music! Music brings human beings closer together. It’s like magic.
A word of caution! Avoid feeling over-confident – but hey, YOU’RE MAKING THE MUSIC so congratulate yourself! You are sailing in the warm currents of the Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar and if you remember to play with Aloha in your heart, you’ll feel a kind of sunlight coming into your life. This is the true gift of the Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar, its warmth and conveyance of the concept of Aloha. Aloha is a very big kuleana (area of responsibility); to help with your understanding of the term, please see my artistic statement (coming soon).
Next: How do we call aloha into our lives?